Friday, February 28, 2020
If you follow statistics about U.S. communications infrastructure long enough, you know that the United States rarely, if ever, is at the very top of any measure of communications performance, where that is “teledensity” (the number of phone lines compared to population) or internet access speed, adoption or low price.
The frequent pattern has been lagging adoption followed by a swift uptake once customers figure out the value proposition, networks reach critical mass or some new use case emerges.
Fundamentally, investment in, and usage of, advanced communications or computing really only makes a difference if it contributes to economic or social outcomes.
In fact, the assertion that the U.S. is behind, on some key measure of communications usage, has been a frequent charge. In the past, it has been argued that the United States was behind, or falling behind, for use of fixed network voice, mobile phones, smartphones, text messaging, broadband coverage, fiber to home, broadband speed or broadband price.
In fact, the “U.S. is falling behind” meme never goes away, where it comes to communications. The latest assertion in some quarters is that the United States is falling behind in 5G. That claim has been made many times in the past, and always has proven wrong.
Consider voice adoption, where the best the United States ever ranked was about 15th globally, for teledensity (people provided with phone service). A couple of thoughts are worth keeping in mind. First, large countries always move slower than small countries or city-states, simply because construction of networks takes time and lots of capital.
With the caveat that some rural and isolated locations never got fixed network phone service, not many would seriously argue that the supply or use of fixed network voice was an issue of any serious importance for the nation as a whole, though it is an issue for rural residents who cannot buy it.
Some even have argued the United States was falling behind in spectrum auctions. What such observations often miss is a highly dynamic environment, where apparently lagging metrics quickly are closed.
To be sure, adoption rates have sometimes lagged other regions.
Some assertions are repeated so often they seem true. Among such statements are beliefs that U.S. internet access is slow and expensive, or that internet service providers have not managed to make gigabit speeds available on a widespread basis. In fact, gigabit coverage is about 80 percent, but take rates might be as low as two percent.
Other statements, such as the claim that U.S. internet access prices or mobile prices are high, are not made in context, or qualified and adjusted for currency, local prices and incomes or other relevant inputs, including the comparison methodology itself.
The latest data from Ookla’s Speedtest service shows that U.S. fixed network internet access speeds are on par with South Korea, for example, while mobile access speeds are on par with Western Europe.
Mobile performance should change significantly, however, as upgrades to 5G using millimeter wave frequencies takes hold. Even before millimeter wave began to be used, mobile speeds were climbing. Between 2018 and 2019, for exampole, U.S. mobile speeds grew about 24 percent.
Such metrics should always be kept in context, however. What matters with the application of technology is what impact can be wrung from the investments. Speed, coverage, latency and price do matter, but only as enablers of economic and social impact.
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Currently, 15 percent of enterprises are investing in 5G, with an additional 54 percent planning to invest in the next one to three years, a survey by EY suggests. By the end of 2022, levels of 5G investment by enterprises will be on par with the internet of things, EY believes.
Nokia end-to-end network slicing functionality for 4G and 5G New Radio networks will be available in the summer of 2020. Nokia says it is the first supplier to offer this capability.
The slicing capability can be deployed via a software upgrade to existing LTE and 5G non-standalone (NSA) networks and subsequently 5G standalone (SA) networks.
At least in principle, network slicing could create a new type of wholesale or managed network capability, potentially allowing end user customers to control core networks as though it were their own managed network.
Think of it as “network as a service.” Granted, the nomenclature is difficult, since connectivity products have always been services.
There are some important new business issues. What parameters can the slice customer actually control? Aside from the key performance indicators, related to quality of service expectations, what degree of control will a slice customer have over the slice parameters?
Does the slice customer put in a change request to the slice provider? Can the slice user make changes directly? And if so, to which parameters? In other words, how much control will slice customers have over on-the-fly changes to their private networks?
The Nokia network slicing solution provides sliced mobile broadband connectivity from device to radio, transport, core, all the way to applications in private and public networks and the cloud. It enables new mobile end-to-end services with logical connections, security, quality and traffic management with a seamless service continuity across 4G and 5G networks.
Private wireless slicing also is supported. Nokia is already trialing live 4G/5G slicing use cases with customers powered by a unique Software Defined Network (SDN) radio slice controller as well as a transport slice controller.
The trial includes a Nokia cloud packet core slice orchestrator to support network deployment automation as well as an SD-WAN software solution providing a managed 4G/5G network slice to private and public cloud services. Nokia assurance systems are used to verify per slice key performance indicators.
But new questions will have to be asked and answered. VPN users do not actually have any control over the network, only the use of a private virtual tunnel through a network. A network slice, in principle, also adds quality of service and functionality guarantees.
What must be worked out in practice are the degrees of end user programmability of such slices.
The difference is that while one can attribute certain lead apps or use cases to each mobility generation, there is a physical basis for the “G” nomenclature that is not present on the fixed networks. Each mobile generation was a discrete platform and network with distinct technological foundations.
One can note the physical distinctions between voice switch generations, access media or logical architecture, and come up with some generations. Since the dawn of the internet protocol era, the physical network also has been separated logically from the applications that use networks and essentially abstracted.
Some might characterize the fixed network eras using various optical platform developments, including the shift from BPON to GPON yp 10G PON to NG-POn2. You can decide whether this is useful or not.
But European standards group ETSI has formed a new group which aims to specify the ”fifth generation of Fixed Network” (ETSI ISG F5G).
At a practical level, the effort seems to address three main issues: full-fiber connections, enhanced fixed broadband and guaranteed reliable experience. But most of the effort seems to focus on how applications drive the need for network performance, arguably something all the other standards groups already essentially are working to ensure.
“The ETSI ISG F5G aims at studying the fixed-network evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile networks and communications.” ETSI says.
Some of us might argue this is largely a marketing exercise, similar to the phrase “from fiber-to-home to fiber-to-everywhere.”
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
It might not be clear which entities in the 5G value chain will be supplying expertise on 5G apps and use cases, but a study by Accenture suggests there is a substantial market for such advice. About 72 percent of respondents to an Accenture survey indicated “they need help to imagine the future possibilities for connected solutions with 5G.”
As you might guess, “software and services companies” and “cloud businesses” are viewed as the sorts of firms most likely to provide that help.
Also, the percentage of businesses expecting to develop 5G applications in-house has dropped over the last year, from 23 percent in the prior-year survey to 14 percent this year, Accenture says.
As always, though connectivity suppliers are among the most-likely sources of help, there is concern about industry domain knowledge.
The survey included responses from more than 2,600 business and technology decision makers across 12 industry sectors in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.
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